Single barrel bourbon, often referred to as single cask, is a higher grade of whiskey that comes from an individual aging barrel. Generally, distilleries blend whiskies from multiple barrels and years to create consistency in color and flavor profiles among their products. In the case of single barrel, however, each barrel is bottled separately, dated and numbered with the specific barrel from which it came. Additionally, single barrels may refrain from chill-filtering, leaving the whiskey at cask strength, resulting in a truer expression of the cask. Here are five of our favorite single barrel bourbon expressions:
Blanton’s is the OG of single barrel bourbons, released in 1984 by the Sazerac Company. Master distiller Elmer T. Lee originally called the product “Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon,” though over time, the name has shortened to just Blanton’s. The barrels require consistent oversight and are dumped by hand, not machine. The whiskey is aged for nine years at Buffalo Trace’s warehouse in the only metal-walled room, allowing fast transfer of heat to create quicker aging of the bourbon. The final product is 93 proof, with a citrusy vanilla nose and a soft palate of burnt sugar and cloves.
Knob Creek Single Barrel
Distilled by Jim Beam, Knob Creek’s Single Barrel expression has a slightly higher corn content than average (77 percent as opposed to 70 percent) and is aged for nine years. Light aromas of corn and vanilla carry over to a stronger palate of toasty grain and spice. At 120 proof, this single barrel bourbon packs a punch without tasting overly hot, maintaining its robust and complex flavors. Open up the whiskey with a drop of water or ice chip for a more mellow experience.
Four Roses Single Barrel
There’s a reason why Four Roses was named Best Distiller by Whisky Magazine four out of the last five years: consistent quality and an exceptional product. This Spanish Mission-style distillery was built in 1910 and is one of the only US distilleries to survive Prohibition and two world wars. Four Roses is the only distillery that uses a single-story rack warehouse for the sake of temperature control and avoidance of product variation. Its award- winning Single Barrel Bourbon is fruit-forward and mapley on the nose, with a full-bodied, spicy palate.
Jim Beam Single Barrel
Significantly lighter than the Single Barrel from Knob Creek, Jim Beam Single Barrel presents citrusy, oak aromas with a slightly sweet palate of caramel and spicy orange. Well-balanced structure is the backbone of this classically Jim Beam expression of bourbon with a twist. Price to quality ratio, this bottle is a steal.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select
While technically Tennessee whiskey, we couldn’t leave Jack Daniel’s out of our single barrel roundup. This bottle is slightly richer and less sweet than the regular No. 7 bottling, with aromas of toffee and a palate of tobacco and burnt caramel. The mash bill is created from the same combination of grains, mixed with spring water and dripped through 10 feet of charcoal. The barrels are exposed to temperature fluctuations in the rick house, allowing the whiskey to mesh with new oak as it rises and descends in temperature. Only one out of every 100 barrels are set aside for Single Barrel Select, with only the very best making the cut.